Football is quite an addiction, I often assure people, especially those that don’t ‘get it’. It’s a puzzle of an enigma and has had me in its grasp since the first decade of my time on this earth. Like any addiction, it starts off harmless enough and indeed, had my parents (both non-football people) realised what would eventually engulf me as my obsession as I grew older – but debatable whether ‘wiser’ could be attributed to me – they probably wouldn’t have had the approach that “it’s a good opportunity to play with his friends, get exercise and have fun outdoors” and might have encouraged me a bit more to put my heart and soul into a solitary sport like golf. Which I like and play to an acceptable standard anyway, but it has never truly had me in its clutches, not like football anyway.
Football is the reason I started writing regularly. Instead of stewing about The Arsenal in bed at night, by writing any old useless ramblings (and I accept that at least 80% of what I say is probably a bit boring or not particularly insightful. But I do it as my bit of fun. My hobby. My ‘keep busy on the Met Line’), I can save my wife from thinking that I’m having those things that humans are supposed to have. You know the ones ‘feelings’, or ‘thoughts’ about stuff. I try rarely to think about anything. Well, with the exception of The Arsenal, of course.
Anyway, back to my addiction, which has dominated my life since the tender age of seven. It’s a very peculiar thing is an addiction to football. Actually no, I don’t have that, I have an addiction to Arsenal. I could quite easily avoid watching Hull play Leicester on a Sunday lunctime. But Arsenal. Well, that is an addiction. It manifests itself in the same way that any addiction does. It consumes me. It takes control of my life. It has me pursuing the highs again and again and again.
It really does control my life. I find myself rearranging things to fit in with watching The Arsenal. Even if I’m not at the game I have to ‘make arrangements’. I have cut work meetings short. I have altered the course of a day on holiday to be near a bar that is showing Arsenal. I have avoided going out for dinner because they are playing. I’ve missed the occasional birthday party too. Last season, I changed the family ‘rules’ for alternating whether we spend Christmas up in Northumberland with The Management’s family because Arsenal were away to Newcastle a few days after Christmas.
The weekend after bonfire night was my birthday weekend and my family surprised me by all arriving to have dinner and watch some fireworks. An interlude during the evenings processions had to be found just so I could watch us capitulate so poorly to Swansea City. You know how I said above that my parents would probably think twice with the benefit of hindsight in introducing me to football? That night I can assure you they were doing so. Especially as my two year old niece was in the room and heard every expletive under the sun after Gomis got Swanse’s winner.
Like any addiction it’s also expensive. I pay for a season ticket, have the boy obsession of collecting programmes, drink beer and eat food every time I go. I don’t go to all of the games – there are others that have the addiction much worse than I in that respect – but I go to three to four away ones each season which all have their additional travel prices. I do it because I want to see my team win. I have felt the highs of my addiction and that is what keeps you yearning for them again and again. Like any addiction the lows can be crushing, but hose highs, oh those highs (FA Cup Final last season, anybody?).
All for those highs. That’s why I’m in so deep. Yet like any addiction, they are so fleeting it has me wondering at times why I do it. I’ve even tried going ‘cold turkey’ for a while. It didn’t work. I avoided reading or watching Arsenal-related news for about a day, before taking sneaky glances at news channels on my phone. It’s an addiction. Not a tap. I’ve learned that you can’t just switch it on or off.
That’s what the people who say “it’s only a game” don’t ‘get’. It’s not “only a game”. It’s an addiction. You don’t find any therapists (I’d assume) saying “it’s only white powder” or “it’s only a drink. You can stop” do you? So why does that universal phrase seem so acceptable to non-football people?
I guess the key distinguisher here is that what alcoholics, drug addicts and smokers do will eventually kill them. I know with our lot it feels like the way they play will be the death of us, particularly the topsy turvy nature of our ability to self implode, but in theory whilst it might not be good for our stress levels, The Arsenal shouldn’t kill us. I hope.
I’m in too deep to stop all of this you know. It’s something I’ll inevitably take to my grave. It’s the perpetual desire to experience those highs again and again you see, that will keep me coming back, regardless of the manager, players, board, ticket prices, in-fighting or rival fan ribbings. Arsenal have me for life. Take this weekend. I’ve been worrying about it since Monday you know. I managed to enjoy the victory against Newcastle until Monday mornings commute to my office, in which I started to think ‘but it will all be back to square one if we lose to Liverpool’, that’s how fleeting the highs are. So they’ve been replaced all week with the fretting since then. It makes you think, eh? If you’re anything like me, during the course of a season you’ll probably get less than a month’s worth of accumulated days of jubilation, whilst the other eight months of the season you spend worrying about the next result. That’s one ninth of your time actually enjoying and experiencing the highs you so desperately crave.
All for those highs.
Bet you’ll be back next week though. I know I will. And I wouldn’t change my addiction for anything.